A teenager can be known at church. That is the ecclesiastical home field advantage. Pray God our teenagers are known in their homes and among their peers, on their stages and playing fields, in their classrooms and online–the church champions teenagers being truly known everywhere and must never press its superiority in this regard.
But this is what church is fundamentally for. While school exists to teach and soccer to coach, church aims to become a human community of disciples who know one another and who, in knowing one another, know Christ, “the image of the invisible God.”
It is so true that church has lost its hold on the market of good-for-you children’s and youth’s activities. That’s no pity. An abundance of camps and tournaments is a beautiful problem to have. I’ve lived in places where church is the only game in town for young people, and those places are impoverished. Youth group is part of an ecosystem now. I’m fine with that.
So let’s do what we do best and play to our organizational strength: knowing one another. Let’s press our small groups, our mission trips, and our camping outings through the sieve of relationships to make them better. Let’s ask, “How can this trip to Haiti make this teenager better known by her peers and the adults in her church? How will she grow in knowledge of herself? How can the weekly youth group make known to the church the awkward seventh grader who sits alone in the corner? And what opportunities for teenagers to be known are we not exploiting? Worship? Leadership? Staff?
Teenagers who know they are known at church know also that they are known by God. They, too, can make that known to us.